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Ask a Patch Pro: Recycling and Composting

Ever wonder what plastic bottles get recycled or how to do backyard composting? Ask our Patch Pro!

How much do you recycle at home?

Perhaps you aren't sure about what could or could not be recycled?

Or maybe you are wondering about composting and how easy it is?

If you have questions on recycling and composting or want to learn more about them then Ginny Black of Plymouth is a great person to ask.

Black, a Plymouth City Council member and a Planner Principle State for the MN Pollution Control Agency, has been involved in recycling reform and education in the state since the 1980s.

Black, who refers to her work title as the "Organics Recycling Coordinator," has been working or volunteering on the state level to bring better recycling efforts and regulations in Minnesota. She currently works on legislative changes to classify composting as recycling.

"Working on composting to turn organic matter back into the dirt it once was is a form of recycling though people don’t think of it that way," Black said. "Composting is much simpler than people make it out to be."

To find out tips from the Patch Pro, just ask your questions in the comments below then check back later to see what they have to say.

roger b hess jr August 23, 2012 at 06:23 PM
some cities use single sort recycling and others use two sort recycling. mpls is changing to single sort, claiming that it will result in an almost doubling of material collected. which is best, single sort or two sort recycling?
M A Keegan August 24, 2012 at 01:32 AM
What is the difference between single and two sort cycling-in Edina we put paperand cardboard in one bag and everything else in another (i.e.plastics and aluminum). If I have overflow, I put it in another tub and they pick it all up.
ginny August 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM
This is a question that is greatly debated by recycling professionsal. Studies of the two systems indicate that a two sort system collect 5-15 percent less material than a single sort system. However, the residuals (contaminated materials or inappropriate materials) from sorting the recyclabels for markets is in the range of 2-5 percent. For a single sort system the residual rate is in the range of 8-18 percent Haulers like the single sort system because it lowers their collection costs. End markets for the recyclables do not like the single sort materials because they get a higher percentage of contaminated materials that increases their disposal costs, plus they have had to retrofit their facilities to remove the contaminated materials. Often that is a significant cost to them. So the picture is mixed. I will let you decide which system is best.
ginny August 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM
You describe the two sort system well. In a single sort system you do not have to separate the materials at all. It can all go into one container. It is an easier system for the person/business recycling.
roger b hess jr August 24, 2012 at 01:13 PM
thank you for your response. if you, as an expert can not decide which system is better, i'm not sure how those of us who are not experts are suppose to decide which is best. i can only assume that a large city like minneapolis, which has many both paid and resident experts on recycling, and many people who are environmentalists, would go with the best system of collection. since minneapolis is changing to single sort, i have to assume that single sort is the best.
Carie Leske August 24, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I would love to participate in our local recycling program... but it's become so complicated, and most of the time they won't even pick it up. We've been given so many tedious guidelines and rules that it's difficult to follow - and even when we do follow them, to the letter, our recyclables are still left behind due to some new guideline we have yet to be informed of. The garbage man has actually advised us to "just throw everything away - it's easier" - I was a little taken aback by that. For example; Now all of our plastics go right into the trash, because in order to pick them up everything has to be washed and sorted by number (the number stamped on the item by the producers; 1,2,3, etc...) and even when we do that the garbage man says something like; "well, all the number 2's can go in one bag except for 'xyz' products". The only thing I am recycling now is aluminum - soda cans, specifically - because that is the only thing that gets picked up without fail. It's frustrating.
Plymouth Recycler August 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Carie, Not sure which city you live in and it makes a difference. If you hire a hauler to collect your recycling and trash I would get the list of haulers licensed to collect in your city and contact some of them to see if their systems are easier. That list is available by calling your city. If, on the other hand, you live in Minneapolis, the city is switching to single stream collection of recyclables and sorting will no longer be required. I believe that switch is scheduled for January. Without more detail I cant give you any more help.
Plymouth Recycler August 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Roger, There are lots of trade offs between dual and single stream and (sad to say) not all of them are environmental. One company in the metro area has done an evaluation of the three types of systems, multi sort (the Minneapolis system), dual sort, and single sort from an environmental perspective. Their conclusion is the multi sort is better than the dual sort which is better than the single sort. The dual sort system is the middle ground. It is easier than the multi sort for the homeowner and gives the end market a cleaner feedstock for their processes than the single sort (but not as clean as the multi sort systems). The upside for the single sort is that it is the easiest for the homeowner so collects more recyclables and conserves fuel. The downside is that it there are more process residuals at both the recycling processing facilities and at the end markets. The private sector is not very willing to turn over their residual rates, so it is difficult know if there is actually more material recycled in a single stream system or if the amount of residuals is so high that the actual amount of material recycled is the sameness the dual sort systems. Sorry for the long answer, but it is more complicated than it might seem.
Carie Leske August 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I am out in a small town in western MN - our waste removal company also removes (or not, as the case may be) the recyclables. I have attempted to reach the other company who hauls in town, but the calls are not returned - leaving me to assume that generating new business is not on the agenda there. Would be nice to have a single stream collection here - or, a simpler system for sorting. Used to be that we could sort into just a few broad categories; paper/cardboard, aluminum, plastic, and glass. Now every catagory has subcategories and it seems that every few months we get an updated list of how it should be broken down even further. I assume that is because the company is trying to save costs by no longer paying people to do the sorting, and not making some type of upgrades to their system/facilities. Kind of a humorous (or rather, sad?) side note: I asked the garbage man if he would just take the recycling bin provided to us back to the company since it didn't look as tho we would be getting much use out of it - he told me no, and further told me that they would just throw it into the trash heap anyway, so I may as well make some other use of it. Sigh.
Danielle Cabot August 24, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Why can't you recycle the tops on bottles?
Michelle August 24, 2012 at 11:48 PM
I live in Albertville and we've had the single sort for maybe about a year and a half now and we love it! We recycle so much more than we used to. Our recyclables are collected every other week and our bin, which is slightly smaller than the garbage can, is just about overflowing. Our regular garbage can never gets full anymore!
Betsy Gasior August 25, 2012 at 03:38 PM
How do we get our local carriers (WM...I'm in Northfield) to start doing consumables? I'd love to compost...don't have a big enough garden here at home to use it all for ourselves, but love the idea.
Plymouth Recycler August 28, 2012 at 12:22 AM
The recycling industry is changing all of the time. You can recuycle bottle tops now.
Dana Menard August 28, 2012 at 04:03 AM
I live in St. Louis Park and was taking all of the "other" plastic recyclables to the East Side Co-Op in NE Mpls. when they were doing their test run of plastic recycling. It is amazing at how much plastic gets tossed in the garbage without the single stream recycling. I would say over half of our plastics were "not accepted" here...
Plymouth Recycler August 29, 2012 at 02:21 PM
That is many peoples experience.
Plymouth Recycler August 29, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Betsy, I really have no suggestion for you. The best I can tell you is that the City licences the local carriers. Through the license the city can require that all local carriers provide that service. They can also pass an ordinance to require that service. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
Plymouth Recycler August 29, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Dana, I know there are discussions at the city council level to change that an allow the recycling of containers, cup, lids and film plastics. It is a matter of negotiating a new contract with the current hauler or going out for bid for a new hauler.
Tina Sheppard December 04, 2012 at 11:44 PM
How much do Dakota County residents recycle in a year? How do we compare to other MN counties?

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